The Cons of Verbal Storytelling

Last week I talked about what I found helpful about verbal storytelling. You can read all about that here. Today, I’m going to be outlining a few of the reasons why, despite the pros, I won’t be implementing verbal storytelling into my regular writing routine.

The biggest con I’ve run across in verbal storytelling is transcription. It takes forever for me to listen to what I say and type those words into a computer.

When I transcribe, I have to constantly stop and start trying to keep up with what I’ve spoken. In the end it takes me much longer than it would to have just written out the information in the first place. This is especially true when there is more complex formating like dialogue. When I do verbal storytelling, I don’t frequently put any kind of dialogue tags, instead relying on the change in my tone of voice to convey who is speaking. While this works fine, when I transcribe, I have to put who said what in order to be able to go back and understand what I was talking about.

The issue of transcription is a huge con for me and the primary reason I don’t typically take advantage of the pros of verbal storytelling.

Another issue, very related to transcription is the process of organizing what’s been transcribed.

As I said in last week’s post, I basically word vomit for twenty minutes. This is great for getting all the thoughts out and verbalized, but it’s not great when I have to go back and sort through what makes sense, what doesn’t, what stays and what goes to the cutting block. I have found that in a twenty minute conversation with myself, I might only get 200 words of actually useful story or story building. 200 words for over an hour of work is not worth it.

The third issue I have found with verbal storytelling is the limits to its helpfulness.

I could never replace writing for verbal writing because everything would take much longer to transcribe, write, and edit. While I might be able to get ideas out quicker, I would have to do everything multiple times. When I’m writing, I’m getting ideas out, typing them, and I automatically begin to implement grammar and style. During verbal storytelling, each of these steps has to be done separately for the same amount of story or ideas. The effort put into verbal storytelling is not equal to the result that comes out.

To clarify, while I know of some writers who genuinely prefer to dictate their writing first and do so as a practice, I realize in most cases, especially in my own, that verbal storytelling is not meant to replace the act of writing, but enhance it in certain circumstances.

As I mentioned last week, it makes sense to me to find ways to write in situations where I don’t have my laptop or a pen or am unable to use such things. What doesn’t make sense to me is speaking everything aloud only to have to do extra hours of work to get the audio into written words especially when I could have just written it out in the first place. For this reason, I find that verbal storytelling loses its helpfulness in the context of my normal writing process.

Overall, I enjoy the technique as a way to quickly get information of my brain where it can be saved, especially in circumstances where writing information down isn’t a viable option. But that being said, the amount of extra work involved in getting an audio recording onto paper turns me away from the technique as a regularly used part of my writing process. I will continue to do the occasional verbal storytelling session when the need arises, but for now, I’ll stick with writing and typing.

What has your experience with verbal storytelling been?

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